Tears are never very far behind when Bonnie Sue Fisher realizes how close to the end she is.

Tears are never very far behind when Bonnie Sue Fisher realizes how close to the end she is.
After seven years of coaching both the McPherson High School swim teams and the McPherson Aqua Pup summer swim team, Fisher is preparing to embark upon a new journey at the end of August. She will move to Colorado, where her husband has transferred with his company.
Fisher will leave a footprint behind in McPherson swimming, however, for years to come. She has not only worked with kids on the Bullpups and Aqua Pups, but in a number of cases, began their journey in the pool in her backyard.
“I’m not sure how many have joined the team since I started [giving swim lessons in McPherson],” Fisher said, “but I have 21 on the team this year that originally were in my back yard, and have as many as 15 that could join the team next year.”
Her back yard is in continuous use during the summer months, as she offers swim lessons in three sessions through June, July and August through her Aqua Bug program. Swimmers start as young as infants, who are getting used to the water, and continue all the way up through adults who want to better their swimming abilities.
The amount of lessons she gives in a week has grown from 20 when she first started to over 80 this summer.
Fisher has been teaching and coaching swimming for 25 years, both in McPherson and Kansas City, and will keep going in Colorado, if she can find the space to start back up again.
“I think [swim lessons are] the only reason I continue to coach,” Fisher said. “Because, if I didn’t have these kids in my life, and if I didn’t have a chance to help them from the very start, the very first time they blow bubbles, very first time a kid goes off the diving board...those joys, to me, are just amazing.”
Fisher has seen success as a coach in McPherson, both with the Aqua Pups and with the high school. She started coaching the Bullpups in 2009 with the girls’ team and took over the boys in the 2009-2010 season. Her first year with the girls, the relay team of Megan Stucky, Kassidy Glazner, Alyssa Powers and Johanna Vetter set an Ark Valley Chisholm Trail League record in the 200-meter freestyle relay, a record that still stands.
In 2011-12 the boys’ team won the AVCTL meet for the first time in history and broke the 400 freestyle relay school record, which, again, still stands. In 2011, she was voted the Kansas State High School Coach of the Year.
The successes kept coming during this past school year. The boys’ team had its highest-ever placing at state in February with a ninth-place finish.
Under her watch, former Bullpup swimmer Derick Goodson became one of the most decorated athletes in MHS history. With each success her athletes achieve, Fisher was right there, cheering them on.
“As a coach, she is a supporter, teacher, cheerleader and friend,” Aqua Pup assistant coach Kyle Banman said. “I would say she’s not a yeller, but she does, and it’s only when she’s excited at how well a swimmer is doing. She is a studier and constant student of swimming, and I really think that rubs off on the kids.”
Fisher considers MHS swimming to be a “hidden sport,” because the team doesn’t practice on school grounds and isn’t able to hold home meets. However, she said she feels the program is growing.
This past season, she had nine sophomores on her two teams that had started swimming when they were six to eight years old. Her pride in what those athletes have achieved is evident.
“Since I’ve been here, we have built up that reputation of quality,” Fisher said. “It’s that reputation of how you practice — that reputation of where your goals are. That’s what I hope I have instilled in them the most. This tradition that the seniors are talking to the freshmen. The ones that started out when I had freshmen and we moved them up. They have built that culture within themselves, so that I know they will carry that through.”
Among the highlights of Fisher’s time with McPherson High was the joining of the MHS and Smoky Valley High School girls’ teams. It was a move that proved beneficial for the Viking swimmers. They never had a high school program and never experienced a state meet.
Former Viking Claire Denk was the first SVHS swimmer to earn medals, picking up four total in her high school career between 2013 and 2014.
“I am a worrier when I swim,” Denk said. “[Fisher] really helps calm me down. She looks at each individual swimmer as a person and what they need, and she coaches them according to those needs. And that’s really great. You don’t find that in many coaches.”
Fisher isn’t quite done in McPherson. While the Aqua Pups have wrapped up their season for the summer, she will still have the swim lessons through the remainder of August. She will use that month to continue to impart a respect and love of the water to her students. This includes autistic children who find some calm in the water.
While she will be in another state next season, she will still be rooting on those students she’s had since they were mere tadpoles.
“McPherson is filled with dedicated parents and talented swimmers,” Fisher said. “The potential in this town is greater than it is given credit for. I hope that my time here has opened people’s eyes to not only the joys of competing, but also the benefits that swimming provides for all ages.”